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Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: We Survived...At Last I Speak

When my Mom told me she was going to hear a Holocaust survivor speak a couple weeks ago, I asked if she wouldn't mind picking up a copy of the book he was discussing (she did - and it was signed!) because the subject matter was slightly different from anything I had read.  There are 24,811 people that Israel has honored as the "Righteous Among The Nations," non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the senseless Nazi "final solution."  This amounts to over 10,000 rescue stories.  That's only a drop in the pan when you realize six million Jews were exterminated, which is largely why these people are so special.

Léon Malmed and his sister Rachel were two such children who were saved, thanks to the limitless kindness of the Ribouleau family.  When the police come to arrest the Malmed parents, the Ribouleaus promise to care for their children until their return.  With an end uncertain, the Ribouleaus kept their promise long after the end of the war, feeding a family of six on only four ration cards.  They loved Léon and Rachel as their own and the feeling was mutual as Léon refers to his second set of parents as Papa and Maman.

This memoir also showed more of what wartime was like in France.  Léon affirms that his family never felt an ounce of antisemitism until the day his parents were arrested.  Even as the roundups were occurring, neighbors may have urged the Ribouleaus to turn in the Malmed children, but no one reported them.  The French people never seemed to have done anything particularly terrible themselves, but none of them attempted to stop the Germans.  I recognize the powerful grip of fear but can't help but think how many more people could have been saved if more of the French acted on these thoughts of goodwill like the Ribouleaus.  Thoughts don't save lives and their silence sent far too many to the death camps.

The Malmed children have grown into adults with very full lives - lives that would not be possible if the Ribouleaus had not been the amazing, caring people they were.

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